Howl of the Carrion King Session XIII
All is quiet. A good night’s rest is a welcoming thing indeed after what the adventuring party had been through the previous day. Dreams of valor, the endless pursuit of good, riches beyond imagination, and the furthering of Sarenrae’s will meet the party as they sleep blissfully in the safety of their encampment. That is until Glarth rudely awakens each in turn well before the sun has risen. Reluctant at first, and then driven with purpose, the group awakens with a mind to turn their dreams into a reality. For this day is a special day indeed. On this day, the mission at hand is to free the Temple of Sarenrae, in Kelmarane, of its evil inhabitants and to restore the church for the glory of the Dawnflower.
The energetic firecracker of a gnome in tow, the group heads out hours before dawn. Stopping only for morning prayer and the preparation of magic that will very likely be needed throughout the day, the party arrives at the temple in a timely manner. Entering its walls, we discover the interior has been lain waste by fire and time. Corpses litter the ground. Recently slain gnolls join ancient desiccated bodies of clergy, commoners, and soldiers in the livery of the Zephyr Guard. The southern wall of the temple opens in a series of arches to an outside garden and cemetery, dominated by a large statue of Sarenrae with her hands raised in a welcoming manner.
As the group approaches the statue they start to notice some peculiarities. What was once a beautiful angelic image of Sarenrae herself, wings spread wide, has been desecrated and deformed in a most vile manner. The lower jaw broken off leaving a gaping maw, wings stained black by smoke and ash, and rivers of red streaming down from the eyes of a once beautiful face, the group cringes at the foulness, and Glarth and Zafar recognize the statue for what it has become. The image of Szuriel, Archdaemon, Harbinger of the Apocalypse, The Horsemen of War. Zafar in particular feels a rage building in him unlike anything he has felt before, and silently vows vengeance for the evil that has decimated this holy ground.
The group then notices an older man kneeling over one of the many dead bodies strewn about the courtyard in silent reverence. He bears the yellow robes of a high priest of the Dawnflower and as we inch closer to inspect and greet this man, he rises and turns to face us. As he faces the group and welcomes everyone to his church, his visage, that of an elderly cleric of Sarenrae melts away quickly to reveal a grotesque skeletal figure clothed in blackened, almost burnt, garb. Taunting the party with words promising death and despair, the skeletal priest gestures out, reaching out with his horror.
Reacting quickly to the threat, the party immediately charges forward, but not before the evil farce of a priest raises the dead around him, commanding them to dispatch the group. Suerbahn, shaking of the oncoming fear, moves quickly, tripping one of two skeletal guardsmen in his path. Zafar charges, dealing a critical blow to the other corpse, slicing him in two with a single swing of his falchion. Zahkmed sends forth a searing light, striking the evil priest with the force of a the goddess. Khatovar, Glarth and Ce-tan all move forward with intent to destroy this evil once and for all, when suddenly a wave of cold, dead energy washes over them. The party is dealt a sickening blow, as the priest howls in pleasure.
Glarth recognizes the skeletal priest for what it is, a Hecueva, a rare and especially foul form of undead. A holy man, manipulated into doing great evil, fallen from grace, and then killed by his own hands at the height of his despair. This monster used to be a priest of Sarenrae, perhaps, the head of this congregation, and something twisted him into this ruin.
Feeling the urgency of the situation, Glarth casts a powerful magic, and the party feels a haste well up inside them. Suerbahn quickly closes on the undead priest, followed seconds later by Zafar. As the party endures more pain, Zahkmed calls upon the will of Sarenrae and channels her holy light into an aura of positive energy, healing many of the group. Zafar, clad in full plate armor and wielding one of the largest blades known to men, moving with a swiftness that belies the magnitude of his stature, lands lethal blow after lethal blow on the undead priest. Wanting nothing more in this moment than to give the soul of this foul being, a soul that was once dedicated to Sarenrae’s teachings but since corrupted by evil beyond comprehension, the peace it rightly deserves. Suerbahn, seeing the opportunity he has been waiting for, strikes true and trips the foul priest. Zafar, sword raised, crushes the skeletal priest with a killing blow so powerful that even the remaining skeleton knights thought better of facing the paladin, and crumbled to piles of bones where they stood.
Gathering a golden sword that bursts into radiant flames when drawn and bearing an etching of the rising sun and a magical scabbard richly embossed and ornamented, the group leaves the desecrated graveyard and head inside the temple. We quickly discover stairs leading down to large heavy stone doors. The metal seal, and glowing arcane runes reveal it to be the sealed door that both Filliped and Almah mentioned. The Interdiction Key, breaks the barrier and the doors swing open, and we venture forth into the crypts below the church.
Entering a large room with a well in its center, a large golden gong against the wall, and a set of stone doors at the far side of the room, the group wanders about trying to decide what to do. Khatovar decides to jump into the well to inspect, noticing little aside from a small separation in the stone at the bottom of the well. Trying to figure out if it is a secret door or not, Zafar grows tired of waiting and impulsively strikes the gong. GOONNNGGGGG!!! A ringing loud enough to wake the dead emanates through the monastery. Khatovar quickly finds the floor underneath him give way to a dark space below, as beings enveloped in fire fly past him, towards the party above. Reacting quickly, Khatovar barely grabs hold of the rope to save himself from falling.
Once the gong was struck, Zafar noticed writing appearing on the bronze surface stating “Those Who Hold the Sun in their Heart May Enter”. Thinking little of it Zafar quickly prepares himself for battle, as three angelic beings composed entirely of flame and gracefully wielding scimitars materialize and attack. The battle rages on, and members of the group gradually catch on fire, and its quickly apparent that these beings are no easy foe, thankfully due to our groups natural resistances against heat and flame, we are not quickly dispatched. Thinking on his feet (never a safe thing as it usually involves poor choices), Zafar draws the golden sword he had taken from the undead priest, and holds it to his heart. With that, the transfigured fire elementals turn to him, bow, and disappear. Taking it as a sign from his god, Zafar knows his intentions are pure and is filled with the confidence of the sun. He is the Dawnflower’s blade. The Dawnflower’s will. Sarenrae incarnate.
Choosing to save the trip down the well for last, the group decides to enter the chamber to the far side of the room. The door is now open, and within the party finds many tombs within the walls of what they expect are ancient followers of Sarenrae. Glarth, hardly able to contain himself, starts searching the room for magical auras and quickly discovers that there is some form of magical item within a burial urn in the center of the room, ornately decorated with holy passages of “The birth of Light and Truth” and topped with the familiar angelic figure of the Everlight. Moving to find a way to break into the burial urn, Zafar is able to surmise his intentions and quickly interjects. Glarth not quite understanding why Zafar is sooooo very angry at him at the idea of desecrating this burial site for the pursuit of knowledge (after all, the dead don’t need magic) continues to argue and persuade Zafar to understand the folly of his beliefs. That is until it is evident that Zafar is on the brink of drawing his sword in defense of the dead. “What an overwhelmingly dull brute” Glarth thinks to himself as he reluctantly walks away from the unknown.
There is a secret door in the room that leads to an already looted out chamber of treasures. There are few items left behind of interest, including an incredible hand written and illustrated book of “The Birth of Light and Truth” that Zafar safely tucks away for his church. The rest of the items are declared church property, and Zafar cautions against their theft. But Glarth, revealing he is still quit nimble with his fingers, despite his advanced age, makes a couple scrolls disappear before the overzealous Zafar can stop him. It doesn’t take long for the group to realize there is not much more to explore in this area, besides of course the dark, dank, creepy well with the stank of fear and death.
Climbing down a rope, the party finds more graves within the walls of a long open hallway. There is a heavy gate blocking the way, and its mechanism intentionally broken, however, Khatovar decides to lift it up for the group to pass. Heavier than it appears, Khatovar uses every bit of strength to lift it, an impressive feat indeed.
Passing through the open hall of graves, the group finds several corpses strewn across the hallway that seem to have been cut in half with a heavy bladed weapon. The ancient desiccated bodies do not look like the product of vandalism, but rather that they were cut down in combat. Puzzled, and suspected more of the undead, the group presses on. Angered over their sudden disturbance, a wave of locusts swarm the group. Many thousands of these foul insects move to eat the parties flesh. As Ce-tan holds them at bay with a series of Color Sprays. The prismatic light’s wide angle of effect is useful, but the creatures seem resistant to its effects, as they are only stunned momentarily. Thinking quickly several of the party decide to burn the stunned locusts in an effort to dispatch them before they awaken again. Not Zafar though, quickly realizing that his weapon is of no use in this situation, boldly rushes through the locusts swarm to the end of the crypts where he finds, and opens a door, alone. Thinking it most wise to just get through the opening in an attempt to evade the locusts, what Zafar finds would make this the most unwise decision a mortal could make. DUN DUN DUN.
Kardswann laughs a dry twisted inhuman laugh as he looks down upon Zafar and his allies beyond. This chamber stands in stark contrast to the craftsmanship of worked stone of the rest of the crypt—instead, here looms a vast cavern. The air is damp and cold, and moist, writhing roots hang down from the ceiling twenty feet above. Puddles of reeking fluid dot the floor, and at the far end a jagged upthrust lance of stone rises from the ground to form a steeply-sloped platform. A throne for the scarred crazed warrior. In a voice completely alien to your experience yesterday, Kardswann taunts…
“Many years have I languished in this foul place, trapped here by the wards placed by your Pactmasters. Endless decades have I endured the whispering spirits of the wholesome dead, cursing my captors, hating the world I could no longer corrupt.
“When the Templar came eight weeks past he walked through the walls. But you, you have broken the seal, and my long captivity is finally at an end! HAAHAHA
“But before I go, I will kill you…one….by….one until the last of you willingly allows himself to be my slave.” The genie rises from his throne. “Which one of you, I wonder…yes, how about YOU!”
Croaking out a spell, Zafar is snared by the “Genies” enchantment and falls under his sway, quickly the tides turn against us. Unknowing Zafar’s fate, but seeing the Genie ahead, Zahkmed, leads off with his most powerful protection spell, as his Circle against Evil takes effect, Zafar is freed before he can inflict real harm to his friends.
As we advance, a soft droning sound in the chamber and hallway grows more powerful, and soon it becomes difficult to concentrate on anything else. As Glarth and Ce-tan deal with the remaining locusts, the Genie leads off with another spell, and a cascade of colorful whisps spring into being around Zafar and Zahkmed, though they resist the fascination, they fall sway to the overwhelming droning of the chamber. And are quickly driven insane by its unending pounding.
Glarth sends his pet in to intercept Kardswann, while the party tries to regroup. Suerbahn however is struck low by a series of savage attacks as he approaches. Massive gaping wounds appear in several places along his serpentine form, as his body is thrown back with violent force. Kardswann adjusts his ax, and laughs maniacally. However, before his demise, Suerbahn’s enhanced senses revealed to Glarth that all was not as it seemed. As the chamber was actually some sort of chapel and not the cavern it appeared to be. Revealing their foe to be some sort of powerful illusionist.
Khatovar, springing over his companions like a dragon in flight, charges into the chamber that has served as this monsters prison for centuries. The droning increases in pressure as he swiftly approaches, but to his disciplined mind it is nothing. “Ce-tan! I wish to End This NOW” He calls out, as the groups resident Wishcrafter bends reality to give Khatovar the opening he desires. Landing a mighty blow, against all odds, Khatovar realizes that this beast is not at all what it seems and sees through its powerful illusions for the first time. It is not the Jann he expected, it is something far older, far more powerful. A massive scorpion-shaped fiend with glimmering reflecting carapace and two sets of rapidly droning wings.
The party attempts to back up Khatovar, but find it difficult to control their own actions amidst the maddening droning noise. As Zahkmed begins to claw at his own ears, Zafar confuses friend for foe and lays into his brother in faith with his Falchion. Ce-tan rushes forward, but even his willful mind is turned inside out by the insanity driving sound. He collapses, muttering to himself, confused.
Glarth, revealing, his innate ability as a gnome to always stand out, retains a firm hold on his sanity. (What there is of it) and summons up a celestial Lantern Archon to give some emergency aid.
Zafar, finding a moment of clarity, and seeing his ally Khatovar in grave danger, moves in quickly, and strikes blow after blow against the foe. As the scarred warrior gets pummeled by the combined onslaught his illusion slips, revealing to all his fiendish nature. It is a Glomeray, a whisperer of pride, a Daemon from Abbadon, and a powerful one at that. It seeks retribution, and inflicts great harm on both the Monk and the Paladin.
Glarth once again saves the day with his haste spell and follows it up with a backbreaking slow on the foul Daemon. Zahkmed and the Lantern Archon continue to be victims of the horrendous droning, while Ce-tan begins to tear at his ears in an attempt to make it all end. And Zafar continues to struggle on the brink.
Khatovar, fists striking quickly and surely, moves to flank the beast with Zafar. Grasping hold of the temporal advantage, Khatovar lands a series of massive killing blows that finally fell the creature. Taking stock of their foe, and their surroundings, the group finds a couple pieces of arcane jewelry on the Daemon’s carcass. The epic battle is over, Kelmarane is free. Tired, and a little shell shocked, the heroes compose themselves as they ready for their next triumph!